Pacific aldermen question the legality and enforceability of a recent Supreme Court ruling that requires cities to help pay off a shortfall in the sheriffs’ retirement funds.
Aldermen were asked to approve an ordinance at their July 16 board meeting that requires the municipal court to collect a $3 surcharge on all court costs.
City Attorney Dan Vogel said because the Legislature removed an exemption freeing municipal courts from collecting the surcharge they are now required to collect it.
Vogel also said at least one Missouri municipal judge has stated he will not collect the tax, but the Missouri Supreme Court had ruled the collection is enforceable.
Pacific aldermen questioned the ruling and the possible consequences if Pacific — like the one opposing city — chose to take no action.
Aldermen say they don’t know why municipalities should be required to pay into a sheriffs’ retirement fund.
Vogel said the issue probably will be challenged and will be fought by Pacific’s judge and prosecutor.
“We will have to do it if the judge believes it is lawful, but not if he does not think it is lawful,” Vogel said.
In the past, the Missouri attorney general said it was not lawful for municipalities to collect $3 in court costs to pay off a shortfall in the sheriffs’ retirement fund.
“There is no connection between the sheriff and municipal matters,” Vogel said. “The sheriff has activity in state cases, but not in municipal cases.
However, at present there is the direction from Supreme Court that collecting the surcharge would be required.
Alderman Mike Pigg said Overland Judge Frank Vatterott has raised the issue that the surcharge is not appropriate.
“If it was a victims’ fund, or our local law enforcement, I’d understand, but this has no bearing on us,” Pigg said.
Alderman Steve Myers asked what the consequences would be if Pacific took no action on the ordinance.
The answer is not clear, Vogel said, but the city might receive an order from the Supreme Court.
“There could be some action taken against the city,” he said.
Vogel suggested that aldermen pass the ordinance authorizing collection of the surcharge, but only require it if is required by law. He also told aldermen that the municipal court is subject to the Missouri Supreme Court.
“The municipal judge will be in a little bit of a bind if the state law requires the surcharge, but the city doesn’t have an ordinance authorizing it. To collect the tax, the city must have an ordinance to authorize the judge to do it,” he explained.
Mayor Herb Adams, who served as municipal judge for 14 years, urged aldermen to listen to the city attorney.
“Years ago a municipal judge was a lay person. I can see wrestling with this at that time, but not when we have a judge who is an attorney,” Adams said. “Let’s leave that interpretation to the judge. That is his job. Your job is to legislate. The judge would know better than us how to handle that. I say pass this and let that fall at his feet.”
Aldermen approved the first reading of the bill, which will be considered for final approval at the next board meeting.